Mobilizing resources for education and improving spending effectiveness: establishing realistic benchmarks based on past trends

Autor(es): Al-Samarrai, Samer; Cerdan-Infantes, Pedro; Lehe, Jonathan David

Date: 2019

Pages: 52 p.


This paper looks at how countries have mobilized additional resources for education and assesses their impact on access and learning outcomes, using the World Bank's new Learning-Adjusted Years of Schooling measure. The paper shows that global spending on education has risen significantly over the past two decades, although spending as a share of gross domestic product has remained relatively unchanged, at about 4.5 percent. However, global trends mask large differences across regions and country income groups. For example, low-income countries recorded the largest increases in terms of the share of GDP spent on education, but the absolute amount they devoted to education remained low compared to other countries. Economic growth has been the main driver of increases in public education spending. Yet, countries that achieved the largest and most rapid spending increases did this through a combination of increases in overall government revenues, a greater prioritization of education in the government budget as well as healthy economic growth. Increases in public education spending did not generally result in major improvements in average education outcomes. Using the available data, the paper shows that a doubling of government spending per child led to an increase in learning-adjusted years of schooling of only half a year. Preliminary findings also show that countries with lower efficiency and spending are expected to get the most from increases in spending in improved education outcomes. The paper concludes by outlining an approach that allows countries to assess their potential for increasing education funding and the expected effects on their education outcomes, based on benchmarks drawing from the data of comparable countries. It also underscores the urgent need to improve data on public education spending and education outcomes, to extend this analysis to cover a wider set of countries and increase the robustness of country-level benchmarks.

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